He has worked as an artist since the early seventies, has shown at many international exhibitions and has represented Germany at the Venice Biennale. The focus of his work is the body and the soul and the relationship between the two.
He initially concentrated on music studies and sang in operas for several years. After a course in art and experimental photography he abandoned opera for his artistic work. The most characteristic work of the 70s and 80s are the ‘aktionen’ he did in natural settings, usually deserted spots or places with a history. In these pieces, the human body (usually Appelt’s) undergoes the influence of the physical and cultural environment in which it is located. Covered in white powdered marble, stones, wood, swathed in bandages of rope, his own body is reduced to a medium. The ‘aktionen’ were documented in the form of photos. Appelt sees photography as more than a technique for the depiction of objects or action. The photos are frozen in time while not being brought entirely to a standstill. He calls this ‘taking photography back to slowness’. He learnt this stillness in part from Zen philosophy during a long stay in Japan. By recording particular places and natural elements such as wood, stone, water and sand, Appelt is looking for invisible, mysterious and perpetual forces of decay that remain beyond our direct experience. Unlike Joseph Beuys, Dieter Appelt continues to believe in the power of the image. He thereby uses the full range of technical resources, and double exposure, shadow, mirror effects and long exposure times reinforce the physical presence. The sculptures, in which stone, wood and mirror are combined, follow the same line as the constructions by which Appelt is surrounded during his ‘aktionen’. They refer to ancient mythological processes; a stone encircled by a wooden structure, a geometric sculpture in mirror or glass, certain parts of which often symbolise the body. Polarities have always been a central focus of Appelt’s work, creating tensions between reason and emotion, light and shadow, the narrative and the purely visual, harmony and the subjection to violence, freedom and restriction, life and death. These are combined in a powerful and unforgettable manner, and Appelt seems to be offering us things that appear to escape us.More about Dieter Appelt